Monday, November 18, 2013

Grace

I've been thinking a lot about God's grace these days.  Most likely since I sense a great need for it in my life. People sometimes say it is God's grace that has kept them from trials or difficulties.  Yet I wonder if that is how it works?  If our lives are at a point of ease and comfort does that mean we are living under the grace of God?  By all means God has lavishly given His grace to us through the life of His Son Jesus Christ.  Yet I think His grace is displayed most clearly in our struggles.  The author Max Lucado explains it like this, "To discover grace is to discover God's utter devotion to you, His stubborn resolve to give you a cleansing, healing, purging love that lifts the wounded back to their feet."

God's Word says that He gives grace to the afflicted (Proverbs 3:24), the people of Israel that survived the sword found grace in the wilderness (Jeremiah 31:2), Stephen is described as being full of grace and power right before he was stoned to death (Acts 6 and 7).  The apostle Paul tells of this "thorn in his flesh", which he begged God to remove (thorn is translated 'stake'), yet proclaims in 2 Corinthians 12:9, " 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me."

I can't say that I completely understand God's grace.  But I do know that as you lean on Jesus in the midst of sorrow, pain, loss, confusion, persecution, you can be sure that God's grace is being poured out on you.  He is displaying His love to a hurting world through His sustaining work in your life.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and your heart open to receive all He has for you...even through, especially through, the most difficult of days.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Who am I?

As best as I can remember, my care for my aunt started about 6 years ago when she had a hip replacement, followed by 3 knee surgeries in a two year time span.  My aunt never married and never had children of her own and has always been an important part of our family.  We have had the privilege of living next door these last 22 years.  It was very convenient to go over to help with a project or to spend a few moments catching up on life.  When she began having surgeries, her needs increased a bit.  Rides to the doctor, clipping the cat's nails, taking out the garbage.  Somehow this progressed to taking care of daily needs, grocery shopping, paying bills, filling prescriptions, picking up spilled blueberries, doing laundry, finding a winter outfit from the guest room closet.  This year was particularly difficult and time consuming, multiple calls to 911, several hospital stays, stitches, scans, nursing homes and moving to assisted living all happened in a 10 month period. Looking back, this year looks quite overwhelming, but I must say, I don't have any regrets for anything I did for and with my aunt.  It was a gift to me, and a joy, to be her caregiver.  My aunt suddenly passed away two weeks ago.  We had the funeral today.  And now I have "grief" to list on my resume of life.

One thing my heart is trying to grasp right now is, "who am I?"  My role as a caregiver has slowly taken over much of my life.  And now that role has been stripped away with a stopping of a heart beat.  I would think a sense of relief would flood my soul at the thought of the emotional and physical freedom I could enjoy.  Yet I feel like a lost child in a large department store at Christmas time.

At the funeral I read Revelation 21:3-6 (or I tried to...pools of tears filled my eyes, which made for great difficulty in seeing the words!).  Verse 5 says, "Behold, I am making all things new."  All things.  My role as caregiver has come to a close and now there is something new for me.  Isaiah 43:19 says, "Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?  I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert."  I share a name with my aunt and now we both get to share in something new.  Her "new thing" is eternal life with Christ Jesus where there is no death, no mourning, no crying and no pain.  My new thing is yet to be determined.  I do know the Lord has promised a roadway in this wilderness, so I will follow and find that something new.

(I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that who I am in Christ never changes, I am a child of God.  Yet how our lives twist and turn on this side of heaven can change as quickly as the tide...)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Fog

My photographically gifted friend Chelle Majeski saw this path and thought of me. I love that I have most of my friends brainwashed, I mean most of my friends understand my passion/obsession with paths.  Looking at this picture, I realized most of the paths I'm drawn to are peaceful: soft ground underfoot, shelter from the hot sun from branches budding with life, and a clearing for walking with ease.  Peaceful.  Inviting.  A refuge.  And maybe this longing in my heart is for a place like this.  

Maybe a more accurate picture of my life these days is the one below.  Fog.  No clear path, just the unknown.  The fog says slow down, be careful...without a compass it is a wild guess which direction you will head. Walk by faith not by sight. I look back at this year and shake my head.  This may have been my most difficult year.  Fog.  My aunt's declining health and countless hospital visits, to her passing just a week ago to Dave's continued chronic pain and deep depression.  It seems every morning is greeted with yet another unknown.    
                                         

The Truth is God is in the midst of the peace and in the midst of the pain. He is the One constant in this turbulent year.  And though I can't see in front of me, I can't see where the road leads, I do know the One that is leading.  The picture above is actually of Julia.  She is doing her morning devotions in the fog.  She sees the one thing that is necessary in the midst of the unknown, to trust the Shepherd that leads beside quiet waters and guides in the paths of righteousness. I have missed blogging, it is my way of wading through these waters of the unknown, so I will write.  Again, this is for me, but if a slice of hope can be given to another - then read on dear one.  You are not alone.

*update 11/16/13 From today's devotional, Jesus Calling, last paragraph
"The fog is a protection for you, calling you back into the present moment.  Although I inhabit all of space and time, you can communicate with Me only here and now.  Someday the fog will no longer be necessary, for you will have learned to keep your focus on Me and on the path just ahead of you."
Wow.